It’s Andrew here with another issue of The Star Wars Dissection. This week, I’m continuing the work begun by Chris in his column “EU Action/Reaction” on EUCantina.net. His most recent post, entitled “Publishing Eras Moving Forward”, discussed the six main publishing eras used in Star Wars: Sith Era, Prequel Era, Classic Era, New Republic Era, New Jedi Order Era, and Legacy Era. After reading his article, I decided to take a look at just how many books have been published in each of those eras, and how that has changed over time. This analysis grew to also include young reader books, comics, and video games.
First, it is worth noting that there are some discrepancies between the names and dates of the various publishing eras. Some sources refer to the Sith Era, whereas others refer to the Old Republic era. The “Prequel” and “Classic” eras are also sometimes referred to as the “Rise of the Empire” and “Rebellion” era as well. The dates also sometimes differ. The timeline inside novels refers to the Old Republic era as taking place between 5,000 and 33 BBY, whereas the same timeline from Dark Horse Comics gives the years 25,000 to 1,000 BBY. In a way they are very similar: the Old Republic (or Sith) era refers to almost any title earlier than Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
For the purposes of this timeline, I have chosen to use the timeline given by Dark Horse Comics, as seen here.
Old Republic Era: 25,000 – 1,000 BBY
Rise of the Empire Era: 1,000 BBY – 0
Rebellion Era: 0 – 5 ABY
New Republic Era: 5 – 25 ABY
New Jedi Order Era: 25 – 40 ABY
Legacy Era: 40 ABY +
Admittedly, this is a very old website. However, I feel it is one of the better representations of the eras. The Rise of the Empire era begins at 1,000 BBY, essentially after the events of the comic Jedi vs. Sith and the novel Darth Bane: Path of Destruction. It is here that Darth Bane begins his preparations for the eventual rise of the Galactic Empire. The Rise of the Empire Era ends at the year 0, and for these purposes will be the start of Episode IV: A New Hope (anything concurrent with Episode IV or later is in the Rebellion Era). The Rebellion Era ends on what equates to December 31, 4 ABY, and so includes several stories that might in theory be interpreted as part of the New Republic Era (such as the post-Return of the Jedi Marvel stories and the X-Wing Rogue Squadron comics). The New Jedi Order Era begins at the novel Vector Prime (25 ABY), and the Legacy Era begins at the novel Betrayal (40 ABY).
For this analysis, all novels published from 1976 to the present were included, as well as several books that have not yet been released, specifically, those with titles and announced plots (Conviction, Choices of One, Ascension, Riptide, The Old Republic: Revan, Shadow Games, Darth Plagueis, Apocalypse, Mandorla, Coruscant Nights IV: The Last Jedi). Announced novels without any additional details were not included (Untitled Jeff Grubb novel, Untitled Wraith Squadron novel, Untitled Paul S. Kemp duology). Also excluded from this are short stories, reprints, and ebooks.
Looking at this chart, we can see several trends emerge. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, a total of 10 books were published, the three film novelizations, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye (Rebellion Era), and the Han Solo Adventures and Lando Calrissian Adventures trilogies (Rise of the Empire Era). When the true Expanded Universe began in 1991, we see a cluster of novels centered in the New Republic era, with occasional books set earlier than that (Truce at Bakura, Shadows of the Empire, Han Solo trilogy). In 1999, two important things happened. First, Episode I: The Phantom Menace was released, thus beginning an upwards trend of novels in the Rise of the Empire era focussed on the prequel films. Second, Vector Prime was published, the first novel in the New Jedi Order, a 19-novel series set from 25-29 ABY, the last of which was published in 2003. 2002-2005 saw the releases of tie-ins to Episode II and III, as well as several novels set in the Clone Wars (all in the Rise of the Empire Era). 2005 gave us a brief resurgence of New Jedi Order Era books with the Dark Nest Trilogy. 2006 gave us another two firsts. We saw the first Legacy Era novel, continuing the post-Return of the Jedi EU past the New Jedi Order Era with the Legacy of the Force series (2006-2008) and the Fate of the Jedi series (2009-2012). We also saw the first foray into the Old Republic era, a time period originally only seen in comic books. The first such novel was Darth Bane: Path of Destruction (whose sequels were technically part of the Rise of the Empire Era in this system).
In 2008, the number of Rise of the Empire Era books once again surged with the release of The Clone Wars movie and TV series (this era also gave us theCoruscant Nights tetrology). In 2010, we saw a return of novels set in the Old Republic Era, some tying directly into the upcoming Massively Multiplayer Online game Star Wars: The Old Republic, with novels such as Fatal Alliance and Red Harvest (2010), Knight Errant, Deceived, and Revan (2011), andMandorla (2012).
It is noteworthy that by the year 2000, novels set in the Rebellion or New Republic Eras were few and far between. In the New Republic Era, the only books we’ve seen since 2000 were Tatooine Ghost (2003), Survivor’s Quest (2004), and Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor (2008). In the Rebellion Era, we’ve only seen Galaxies: The Ruins of Dantooine (2003), Allegiance (2007), and the upcoming Choices of One (2011).
Looking at what so far has been confirmed for 2011-2013, I believe that we will continue to see fewer and fewer novels set in the Rebellion, New Republic, and New Jedi Order Eras. We will also continue seeing a prevalence of post-Return of the Jedi books in the Legacy era, hopefully to eventually fill the gap to the Legacy comic series. That being said, this will in all likeliness not come until 2014 or later, as Shelly Shapiro recently mentioned that they were not presently looking at novels following Fate of the Jedi. Last, with the upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO and the long-ago-announced Live Action series, I believe we will continue seeing novels in the Old Republic Era and in the post-Revenge of the Sith portion of the Rise of the Empire Era (19 BBY – 0).
For the purposes of this analysis, only a specific subset of young reader books were selected. Books from long-running series, as well as novelizations of films and such were included in the analysis. Specifically excluded were the various Learn to Read titles, Decide Your Destiny books, the Star Wars Science books, Episode I Adventures and Star Wars Adventures, and novelizations of episodes of The Clone Wars. It also excludes the three biographical stories (The Rise and Fall of Darth Vader, The Life and Legend of Obi-Wan Kenobi, and A New Hope: The Life of Luke Skywalker). Essentially, the books included in this analysis were the series Jedi Prince, Young Jedi Knights, Junior Jedi Knights, Galaxy of Fear, Jedi Apprentice(and tie-ins), Jedi Quest, Boba Fett, The Last of the Jedi, Rebel Force, and The Clone Wars: Secret Missions, as well as the junior novelizations of Episodes I-VI, Shadows of the Empire, and The Clone Wars.
First, it is interesting to see the prevalence of New Republic Era (Jedi Prince, Young Jedi Knights, Junior Jedi Knights) and Rebellion Era (Galaxy of Fear) books in the 1990s, which almost completely stopped in 1998. The instant Episode I was released, almost three-quarters of all young reader books (72%) released have been in the Rise of the Empire Era, tied directly into the prequel films. The remaining 28% were the junior novelizations of the original trilogy and one six-book series (Rebel Force), which tied directly into the previous Rise of the Empire Era series by Jude Watson (Jedi Apprentice, Jedi Quest,The Last of the Jedi).
It’s hard to predict based on this where the next Young Reader series will go. I believe the Old Republic, New Jedi Order and Legacy Eras will be avoided for now, if only because of the genuine possibility that these books might be the first EU experience for many children, who are only familiar with the main characters of the prequel and classic trilogies. The Junior Jedi Knights and Young Jedi Knights books were already fairly far removed from the classic trilogy, but these were the children of Han Solo and Princess Leia, and Luke Skywalker and R2-D2 were part of the story. A similar storyline featuring the children of the Legacy Era, such as Allana Solo or Lando Calrissian Jr. would have less appeal to young readers who have never heard of Jacen Solo, Tenel Ka, or Tendra Risant. The Old Republic Era would have similar problems, as the links to the movies are tenuous at best. The New Jedi Order Era is the most likely of these three to be explored, especially in the post-Yuuzhan Vong War period featuring Ben Skywalker, but I personally would not want my eventual/hypothetical children reading about the violent, brutal Yuuzhan Vong until they were older.
As a result, I personally believe (without any evidence but my own gut) that most stories will continue focussing on the prequel era, possibly tied into The Clone Wars or the future Live Action Series. But many of the older series (Jedi Apprentice, Jedi Quest, The Last of the Jedi, Rebel Force) ran together with characters continuing from one to the next (which led to some interesting internet rumors that Alex Wheeler was a pseudonym of Jude Watson). Since those stories effectively ended with Rebel Force, it may be difficult to simply start a new long-running series from scratch. If they did, I believe it would fit best in The Clone Wars, possibly following Ahsoka Tano on her own adventures. In theory, depending if she survives the series finale, it could shift to another series a la The Last of the Jedi, following her on more adventures. This is entirely speculation on my part, but I believe future young reader novels will go in this direction.
For the analysis of comics, I’ve chosen to include all comic issues, the initial Dark Horse reprints of the classic trilogy, as well as certain graphic novels and digests (those that told new stories, such as Jango Fett, Zam Wesell, The Force Unleashed I and II, Star Wars Adventures, The Clone Warsquarterly digest, and Clone Wars Adventures.) For the old newstrip comics, they were included only under Classic Star Wars in the 1990s, and not in their original newspaper prints. Marvel UK originals were not included, except those reprinted in Classic Star Wars: Devilworlds and Star Wars 0. Tales, parodies, and Dark Horse Presents/Dark Horse Extra stories were not included. Data goes as far forward as August 2011 for comic issues and October 2011 for digests.
All Star Wars comics from 1977 to 1989 were almost exclusive to the Rebellion Era. These stories told the events of the classic trilogy, as well as a series of stories between those films featuring Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Lando Calrissian, and the droids. These included the Marvel Star Wars series (107 monthlies, 3 annuals, and a 4-part adaptation of Episode VI), as well as the Star Comics (division of Marvel) series Ewoks (14 issues) and the the three Star Wars 3-D comics by Blackthorne Publishing. Those few stories that were part of the Rise of the Empire Era were the Star Comics series Droids. Five issues of Droids were part of this era, tied directly into the cartoon series of the same name (the remaining three were concurrent with Episode IV, in the Rebellion Era).
Starting in 1991, Star Wars comics became much more diverse. The Rebellion Era would always be a source for good stories in comics. In the 1990s, most of these were told through Classic Star Wars, a collection of reprinted stories from newstrips. The rest were a scattering of miniseries such as River of Chaos and Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, among others. There was a short lull in the early 2000s, but in 2002 the era was reinvigorated with the seriesEmpire and its successor, Rebellion. Rebellion was put on hiatus in mid-2008 and officially cancelled in 2009, and the era is now only minimally covered by certain stories in the Star Wars Adventures digests.
The Old Republic Era is an era that has been explored in clusters. It was first explored in this medium in 1993, 13 years before it ever appeared in a novel, through the Tales of the Jedi series. This collection of miniseries explored the Great Sith War and its aftermath (4,000 – 3,986 BBY) and the Great Hyperspace War (5,000 BBY). It ended in 1998, suspending any portrayal of this era. The Old Republic Era was explored once more for the miniseriesJedi vs. Sith (1,000 BBY), but the era only got its resurgence in 2006 with the release of the first issue of the Knights of the Old Republic comic series (3,964 – 3,963 BBY), ending in early 2010. Now, the era is covered by the Knight Errant series (1,032 BBY), as well as the tie-in comics to The Old Republic (c. 3,680 – 3,640 BBY).
The Rise of the Empire Era was often explored in the early EU with brief stories centered on the backstories of various characters, such as Boba Fett, Jabba the Hutt, or the Droids. However, starting in December of 1998, coverage of this era expanded significantly with the return of Star Wars monthly, to be later renamed Republic. These comics covered the period starting just before Episode I and ended shortly after Episode III in 2006, and were accompanied by quite a few tie-in miniseries and one-shots. Following the end of Republic, further Rise of the Empire Era stories included the Clone Wars Adventures digests, the comics and digests tying into The Clone Wars TV series, and the newer comic series Dark Times. Furthermore, the upcoming series Agent of the Empire has been announced to take place in this era.
The New Republic Era was the first era touched upon by Dark Horse Comics in the modern EU, with the start of Dark Empire in 1991. Numerous miniseries have run in this time period, including the entire Dark Empire trilogy, the Crimson Empire duology (soon to be trilogy), Jedi Academy: Leviathan, Union, and numerous Boba Fett stories. However, Union was the last story to be published in this era, back in 2000. The New Republic Era has been completely ignored since then, but Dark Horse Comics confirmed that the upcoming Crimson Empire III will take place in the year 13 ABY, well within this era.
The New Jedi Order Era has been handled by only two series since its inception in 1999 with the novel Vector Prime. This era was first portrayed in the comics with the four-part miniseries Chewbacca, which told a variety of short Chewbacca-centric stories, in the framework of his funeral. The comics completely ignored this era from then on until 2009, with the introduction of Invasion, a new monthly series which would take place early in the Yuuzhan Vong invasion of the Galaxy. This series is ongoing, producing roughly 5-6 issues per year.
The Legacy Era was created in 2006 simultaneously with the release of the novel Betrayal (in the Legacy of the Force series) and the first issue of the comic series Legacy. Legacy 1 took place a whole 130 years following Episode IV, and subsequent issues took place seven years later. That series ended in 2010, but currently, the follow-up miniseries Legacy: War is being published. It will end later this month, and it will presumably conclude the story of Cade Skywalker and Darth Krayt in such a way to allow future stories, but not require it. No further series in the Legacy Era have been announced.
Based on observed trends, as well as announcements of the future, it is clear that certain eras will be explored further for some time. As of June 2011, ongoing comic series will be published in the Old Republic Era (The Old Republic, Knight Errant), Rise of the Empire Era (The Clone Wars digests, Dark Times, Jedi: The Dark Side), and the New Jedi Order Era (Invasion). The New Republic Era will be briefly touched with Crimson Empire III, and the occasional Star Wars Adventures digest will explore the Rebellion Era, but there are limits to what stories can be told here now. I predict the Legacy Era will eventually be addressed in comics once again, but only once the right story has been decided. We may have to wait years, but it will be worth it.
For this analysis, all video games dating back to 1982′s The Empire Strikes Back for the Atari 2600 (republished the next year for Intellivision). It also includes the yet-unreleased Star Wars: The Old Republic, assuming a 2011 release (which may no longer be the case). It does not include cancelled games. It does include expansion packs as separate releases, but not republications (like Star Wars Galaxies: Starter Kit or X-Wing Collector’s CD-ROM), ports (publishing originally for one console, and then later bringing it to a second), or box sets (like the old LucasArts collections, Star Wars Galaxies: The Complete Online Adventures, or the Best of PC collection.) Notably, this analysis includes Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga as a separate game from both Lego Star Wars I and II, since it ends up being a distinct game itself. I chose to exclude The Force Unleashed: Ultimate Sith Edition, because the extra material felt less like an expansion and more like Downloadable Content (with good reason; it was downloadable content). If a game is cross-era, I have given 0.5 to both eras (note: I did not count any fraction of Galactic Battlegrounds as being in the Old Republic Era, despite three Gungan missions taking place c. 3,000 BBY).
Note also that this analysis does not take into account the different platforms on which these games were released. All I will say is that Star Wars games have been released in almost every conceivable medium, including: Arcade machines, Atari 2600, 5200, ST and XE, Intellivision, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectum, ColecoVision, Famicom, Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Super Nintendo (SNES), PC (floppy disk, CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, and Steam), Macintosh, Game Boy, Sega 32X, Sega CD, Panasonic 3DO, Playstation, Nintendo 64, Game Boy Color, Sega Dreamcast, Game Boy Advance, Playstation 2, XBox, Nintendo GameCube, Mobile Phone, Nintendo DS, XBox 360, Playstation Portable, Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii, N-Gage, iPhone, Wii Virtual Console, Nintendo 3DS, and a game has been announced for the XBox 360 Kinect. Star Wars games made it to quite a few platforms, including some significantly less popular ones like Panasonic 3DO, Sega Dreamcast, and Nokia N-Gage. But what’s notable is the absence of several platforms here. While some games were made for the Sega Genesis’s 32X and Sega CD add-ons, none were compatible with the Genesis itself, nor its successor, the Sega Saturn. More appropriately, several of the “failure” consoles, such as Virtual Boy and Atari Jaguar, were not around long enough to get Star Wars games.
It is interesting to see that all video games before 1999 except four took place in the Rebellion Era, many of which included re-tellings of the Classic Trilogy. Of the remaining four games, two were in the Rise of the Empire Era (Droids: Escape from Aaron should be placed near the Droids comics and cartoon, X-Wing took place in the year before Episode IV) and two were in the New Republic Era (Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight and its expansion pack,Mysteries of the Sith).
Starting in 1999, most games were in the Rise of the Empire Era, mostly centered around the prequel films or The Clone Wars. In fact, from 1999 to 2011, 64.3% of games took place in this era (40.5/63). This included all prequel tie-ins (including at least seven childrens’ learning games featuring Episode I characters), all games featured in the Clone Wars, the prequel-era campaigns of larger, cross-era games (such as Galactic Battlegrounds and the Battlefront games), a variety of cellphone games tied in to Episode III, and the two The Force Unleashed games.
The year 2003 introduced the first games of the Old Republic Era. Only three have ever been made, including Knights of the Old Republic, its sequel, The Sith Lords, and the upcoming The Old Republic. 2002-2003 also saw the remaining two New Republic Era games, which were both sequels to Jedi Knight (Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy).
The remaining 15.5/63 games that were post-1999 were in the Rebellion Era. These included, among others, Star Wars: Galaxies and all of its expansions, both sequels to Rogue Squadron, the Empire at War series, and the classic trilogy-era campaigns for the Galactic Battlegrounds andBattlefront games. Since 2008, only 0.5 games have been published in this era (the Rebellion Era portion of Battlefront: Elite Squadron).
Extrapolating from this data, it is clear that we will continue seeing more games in the Rise of the Empire Era. This will undoubtedly include additionalThe Clone Wars games, following the success of Lightsaber Duels (Wii), Jedi Alliance (DS), Republic Heroes (multiplatform), Clone Wars Adventures(PC) and Lego Star Wars III (multiplatform, including 3DS). With the upcoming The Old Republic, I also anticipate further games tied in to the Old Republic Era, including any number of expansion packs to that game. The number of stories to be told in the Rebellion Era seems to be dwindling, and that may be a good thing. Fans occasionally joke about playing the Battle of Yavin or the Battle of Hoth in too many games (for the record, the Battle of Yavin, as featured in Episode IV, as well as follow-up Imperial attacks on the Yavin Moon, were featured in no less than 15 games, and the Battle of Hoth in 12 games; note that Lego Star Wars II and Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga are counted separately.) But further cross-era games allow fans to experience all their favourite events in fun long-running stories. I personally loved the over-arching story as the anonymous trooper in the 501st Legion, complete with narrated cutscenes, in the game Battlefront II, which allowed me to play the Battles of Geonosis, Coruscant, Yavin, and Hoth, as well as visit numerous prequel and classic trilogy planets, ostensibly as the same character.
I would personally love to see games in the New Jedi Order or Legacy Eras. I believe there is fan demand for it, and would love it if LucasArts would commission something. With the growing popularity of Jaden Korr in the novel Crosscurrent and its soon-to-be-released sequel Riptide, now would be the perfect time to develop a sequel to Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, wherein Jaden fights the Yuuzhan Vong. The Vong’s use of amphistaffs would allow for great one-on-one melee battles, and their organic ships would look so beautiful on screen. I’ll admit that a Legacy Era game is a bit distant, but it would be cool to be able to fight hundreds of Sith in Darth Krayt’s Empire under the Rule of One (games like Jedi Outcast or The Force Unleashed II required convoluted plot elements to ensure that there were enough Dark Jedi for the player to fight; not so for the One Sith).
In this paper, I would also like to note the recent prevalence of multimedia projects. These are where a single story gets published simultaneously in several media (books, comics, video games, etc.) The first major multimedia release was Shadows of the Empire. In 1996, Lucasfilm Licensing and LucasArts released near-simultaneously the Shadows of the Empire novel (by Steve Perry), Junior novelization (by Christopher Golden), comic mini-series (by John Wagner), and video game for the Nintendo 64. All of these events together tell different aspects of the same larger story, all within the Rebellion Era and in advance of the theatrical release of the Special Edition trilogy.
Similar multimedia projects would spawn from the theatrical release of the three prequel films, though to a significantly lesser extent. Episode I featured a comic adaptation, tie-in comics called Episode I 1/2 and Episode I Adventures, children’s books called Episode I Adventures, several video games (Episode I and Episode I: Racer, for example), and a number of children’s learning video games. Episodes II and III each spawned video game and comic adaptations, as well as other tie-ins.
Three more major multimedia projects who follow over the next few years, all of which were part of the Rise of the Empire Era. Starting in 2002, we got theClone Wars multimedia project, which consisted of the 2D cartoon series by Genndy Tartakovsky, with 20 short episodes (seasons 1 and 2) and five longer episodes (season 3), six novels (Shatterpoint, The Cestus Deception, MedStar I and II, Jedi Trial, and Yoda: Dark Rendezvous, as well as the cancelled Escape from Dagu), the junior novel Legacy of the Jedi, and the video game Star Wars: The Clone Wars for the Nintendo GameCube. We also got nine graphic novels called Clone Wars, which included issues 49-83 (excluding 78) of the Republic series, the five-part Obsession, the five-part Jediseries, and the one-shots Brothers in Arms and Purge. Last, there was the comic digest series Clone Wars Adventures, whose art style was reminiscent of the aforementioned Genndy Tartakovsky cartoon.
In 2008, a new multimedia project would start, by the similar name of Star Wars: The Clone Wars (note the “The“). This began with the The Clone Wars film, which led into the 3D cartoon of the same name (whose third season recently ended; there are presently 66 episodes on the record). The film itself received adult and junior novelizations (by Karen Traviss and Tracey West, respectively), and the TV show had numerous multimedia tie-ins, including a monthly comic series (12 issues total), a comic digest (Volume 6 due in July 2011), a web-comic (whose first-season stories were collected in Tales from the Clone Wars), a number of short comics featured in the Clone Wars magazine, four novels (by Karen Miller and Karen Traviss), several video games, and a young reader miniseries.
The last multimedia project tied into The Force Unleashed. Like Shadows of the Empire, The Force Unleashed told one story through three separate media (multiplatform video game, novel, and graphic novel). Combined, they give a complete overview of the story, though are enjoyable individually as well. Whereas the novel read as a glorified walkthrough of the game, the graphic novel gave new insight, as it was told from the perspective of PROXY, Juno, and Bail Organa, looking back. The sequel, The Force Unleashed II, was also released in a multimedia manner, but the novel version was greatly improved, offering the points of view of numerous characters and not just the player. The graphic novel told the events through the eyes of Boba Fett, and as a result diverged wonderfully into a wholly new story by the end.
I predict that the next big multimedia event will be The Old Republic. The game, due to be released in 2011 or 2012, already has numerous tie-ins, including the novels Fatal Alliance and Deceived (and the upcoming Revan), the short stories Smuggler’s Vanguard and The Third Lesson, and the comic series. I anticipate further tie-ins will develop this game into the backbone of a complete multimedia experience.
In conclusion, regardless of the medium, it seems like Star Wars publications tend to occur as waves. Most notably, we got the massive wave of Rise of the Empire Era media when Episode I was first released, and again when The Clone Wars began. We got more material tying into multimedia events like Shadows of the Empire and The Old Republic. And, in the end, some eras will be difficult to explore in certain media, like the New Jedi Order and Legacy Eras for young reader books.It is difficult to predict where the next books will take place, but I maintain that we’ll get many books tied into other large media releases, like The Clone Wars, the Live Action Series, and The Old Republic, and that the Rebellion Era will be ignored over the next few years.